MOTORISTS who charge their friends for lifts in their car could find themselves in trouble with the law.
Any driver making a profit by taking cash payments from passengers could be charged with operating an unlicensed taxi, which could see them fined as much as £2,500.
While accepting money to cover petrol is not against the law, a problem arises when the money exchanged is more than basic fuel costs.
Road users aren’t allowed to make a profit from lifts unless they have a valid taxi or private hire licence.
On top of a hefty fine for operating an illegitimate taxi service, drivers could also have their insurance invalidated, as most providers won’t cover private drivers if they accept payments from passengers.
So how would police even enforce the law?
For most people driving their friends around, it’s very unlikely you’ll be charged if your mate gives you a bit of extra cash for a lift.
But drivers involved in lift sharing groups could be more at risk of being found out.
Social media groups offering lifts for cash within certain local areas can be classified as illegal taxi services by police.
Earlier this year, Dorset Police investigated the “Bournemouth and Poole Town Lifts” group on Facebook after reports as many as 5,000 people were involved in the illegal lift sharing service.
A spokesperson for Dorset Police told The Bournemouth Echo:“We are aware of several Facebook groups which have been created in order to share lifts in and around the Bournemouth and Poole area.
“When getting into a vehicle with an unlicensed and unvetted stranger, you have no knowledge of their background and risk your own personal safety.
“Before offering a lift in exchange for money, you should speak to your insurance company as this could invalidate your insurance and may result in your vehicle being seized by police, a fixed penalty or prosecution resulting in a fine, points on your licence or disqualification from driving.”
According to experts, insurers will allow drivers to take certain payments to cover private lifts, but they must still not profit from them.
Neil Greig, Poilicy and Research Director at IAM RoadSmart, said: “The government wants to encourage car sharing to reduce congestion so there are agreements in place with all car insurance companies that will allow you to take expenses from car share friends without invalidating your cover.
“However, if you over charge them or start to do it for profit, your insurance may be invalid. You may also be breaking local regulations set by your council who licence private hire cars.
“If you plan to car share always check with your car insurance company first and be transparent about what you plan to do and how often it may happen.
“Remember, not all your workmates may be safe drivers so it’s always worth checking out their driving before getting into a car share arrangement.”